A DIFFICULT SUMMER: Residents Must Brace for BPL Challenges

A DIFFICULT SUMMER: Residents Must Brace for BPL Challenges
Bahamas Power and Light's (BPL) Blue Hills Power Station.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Residents should anticipate a challenging summer in electricity reliability, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Kyle Wilson warned yesterday.

His comment came after electricity failed in parts of New Providence yesterday, the latest in what has been an uptick in outages in recent months.

BPL did not release a statement explaining the cause of the outage up to press time, and attempts to reach Minister of Works & Utilities Alfred Sears and other BPL board members were unsuccessful.

A Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) technician services a power line. (FILE PHOTO)

Wilson revealed to Eyewitness News that Shevonn Cambridge, a former deputy general manager of BPL and the current director of utilities & energy at URCA, is the frontrunner to be the next CEO of BPL following Whitney Heastie’s resignation last month.

“He was doing a great job prior to his resignation from the company,” Wilson said. “I guess he is one of those persons whose name has been floating around, someone who is poised, who is available and ready to meet the challenges.”

He said BPL’s transmission and distribution networks need to be upgraded and that failing to do this will cause reliability issues as temperatures soar in the coming weeks.

“Historically, even with BPL stepping up to try to meet the challenges, there were still issues and so with the company really in my opinion has not necessarily been taking the bull by the horn,” he said. “I can’t give a high grade on how prepared we are for this summer. Be prepared to see some issues.”

Although Bahamians experienced largely smooth summers for electricity reliability in the past two years, Wilson blames the anticipated difficulties on Heastie and former officials under the Minnis administration.

“It’s safe to say that we’ve suffered (more outages in recent months),” he said.

“As you could see, the previous CEO Whitney Heastie along with the former human resources director would’ve tendered their resignations. I don’t know if it was directly related to that but was it just coincidentally within the same timing as the power outages? It seems to me like the new chairman, the new board, they are serious about making a turnaround at BPL. They are going on listening tours, they are speaking with the employees, asking them what are the challenges, how do they meet those challenges, what are the tools needed and so this is good.

“You would remember that the union would have had many industrial actions,” Wilson continued.

“Remember the union issued press statements to the like that at the time the leadership of BPL to me, they were not serious about getting the company summer-ready and so this current board, its new executive, they’re inheriting a major issue and hopefully they can come up with some short term relief. I’m talking about these warnings from last summer, they were warnings from June, July, and August. We were warning the Bahamian people that hey, we don’t think that due diligence was done on your behalf. I was concerned that because the necessary decisions weren’t being made that would have BPL on course this summer.”

Wilson said Wartsila engines, a key part of the Minnis administration’s effort to boost electricity reliability, did not “necessarily meet the needs or the standards for which it was built”.

To prevent a difficult summer for electricity, the right people must be appointed to key positions at BPL, he said.

Accordingly, BPL’s board appears intent on choosing the right person and has been meeting employees to boost their morale so they can be more productive, he added.

Otherwise, Wilson said BPL’s equipment and network must be enhanced.

“It is always best to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. A lot of the Bahamian-owned generation equipment is under heavy repair. As we bring those up, it’s still best to bring in something to supplement that just in case. I’m not against that saying hey let’s just have a fail-safe just in case, I have no issue with that,” he said.